It's on. I'm all in now, and I don't think there's a turning back towards a diet of purely healthy and refined television taste in my immediate future.
Tuning in – at first by pure accident, I swear – to The Real Housewives of Orange County was one thing. Electing to continue to watch it was a conscious choice I made, knowing it meant I would be descending brain-first into a world of constructed madness created by a cocktail mix of Botox, new and showy wealth, and the misguided notion that because there's an omnipresent camera pointed at your face, you must be very important and every single one of your opinions matter, and they should probably all be shouted into another woman’s face at full volume.
That television choice I made was one thing. But I have now, after over three years of staunch refusals and public declarations that I would never do it again, tuned into the brunette harridans of New Jersey, and I fear my IQ might never ever recover.
I’m genuinely concerned about my own welfare. And yet, I'm pretty sure I'm going back for more.
(And to be clear, by "pretty sure," I mean "without question," and I'm already wondering which appetizer I should to prepare to go along with what I like to call Theresa's Sentencing Spectacular. Not sure what it is I’ll be cooking, but to keep the mood consistent, I'm rather certain it'll end up being something cheap, fattening, and fried.)
Is there a clinical definition for someone who willingly and methodically exposes herself to programs starring people she would never associate with in real life, people who – at best – were not blessed with mental or emotional intelligence but were genetically gifted with an extra set of vocal cords and the dexterity that allows someone to rip a weave off another woman's head in one swift grabbing motion?
Is this a modern form of masochism I’ve waded into?
My reasons for initially turning away from the Jersey women were vast, but mostly it came down to the fact that I have a hard time watching stupid people fight. I can watch vapid people brawl – that’s why I still like the lip-plumped ladies of Beverly Hills – but the participants of the Jersey franchise genuinely sound like morons. It could be the accent many of them have going, and as a girl from Long Island who everybody at an out of state college expected to sound like Amy Fisher, I’m sensitive to not judging people on an accent alone. Instead, more than the cadence of their voices, I think it’s how long it seems to take some of them to construct sentences that makes me feel that I’m watching The Remedial Women of the McMansions of New Jersey.
Then there’s Theresa. Oh, dear.
Now, I watched the show for the first two seasons, so I know Theresa. I watched her scream her tan face off and flip over tables in restaurants. I watched her push Andy Cohen into his tufted chair with brute force during a reunion special, morphing from seemingly calm and composed to absolute lunatic in half a second flat. I watched her get implants she called “bubbies,” and I was pleasantly surprised that her insistence on doing so did not cause me to toss my own table across the room, or at least heave a drink against a wall, but you know – I’ve got restraint. I saw Theresa give birth to baby after baby and saddle each with a name that contains more vowels put together than I’ve seen outside of an impressive Scrabble game. So yeah: I know who Theresa is.
Knowing is one thing. Laughing at memories of her behavior is another. But tuning back in for more has made me land on a new level of terrible, and I’ve become reminded again of just how cringe-worthy it is watching what amounts to a very painted box of rocks form words. The sight of Theresa and her square-shaped husband Joe, even when they are just sitting silently, is enough to make me shiver – and not in that good way. This couple comes off to me as utterly vile in their collective lack of integrity, honesty, and viable working brain cells. Knowing that they are now on the show because they genuinely need money instead of mere attention is uncomfortable to see. Hearing from friends, to whom I’ve whispered in a hushed confession that I started watching the show again, that Joe was basically caught cheating on Theresa and called her “a cunt” in one episode should make me feel badly for her, but it’s hard to feel badly for a woman who calls Victoria Gotti and her ridiculous white-blonde curtain of hair "a mentor." And while I concede that it's kind of awful of me to speak ill of a child, I'm going to go forth and do so anyway and call that Milania creature the most frightening thing I have ever seen in close-up on my high-definition television, and that includes watching the bloody carnage on three seasons of American Horror Story and accidentally stumbling upon Nancy Grace that one time as I was flipping through the channels. And, again, I get that an adult making fun of a child is mean, but I cannot really summon up the guilt because:
a) Her parents put her and her psychotic behavior on television since the kid was an infant, so that allows people like myself to form judgments and reality television has been around for far too long for its participants to pretend that they don’t know strangers judging their offspring is an all but certain result of signing the Bravo contract.
b) I'm not exactly sure this shrill, orangutan-resembling kid is fully human – so my own humanity is kind of shaky here because of the logistics of the situation.
(I will say this: not every baby or child is adorable; they're just not. And I have said some unkind things about some rather unfortunate-looking kids through the years, and for a long time now I've believed that I'll be eventually be blessed with ugly triplets as a result. But the joke's on you, Karma! I'll give up the most hideous-looking one for adoption – but I'll leave it a piece of a medallion so it can one day find its more-attractive siblings in an exciting cinematic fashion. And I pray you will never be able to watch any of my offspring on a reality television program, because that will be a level of karma with which I don’t think I can contend.)
I’m embarrassed to admit that the moment I started watching the show again, I was hooked. Like, watched-a-marathon-of-the- season hooked. I'm sure it helps that, while I didn't stay with it over the last few seasons, the massive press these women receive from 24 hour media outlets like Radar Online who have to fill its pages with stories about someone – and often settle on reality pretend-starlets when Edward Norton is off working – made me somewhat aware of what has been happening in their lives. I heard about the court case Theresa and Joe were involved in and that the blonde one with the bald cat was returning to the show after choosing Theresa over her own sister, a choice that strikes me as a mistake any way you can spin the situation. It was easy to pick up where I'd left off, like when I used to return from summer camp where there was no TV, and I'd turn on Days of Our Lives and realize that, even though eight entire weeks had passed, Stefano was still evil, Marlena was still possessed, and someone's amnesia just wouldn't get cured like a common cold.
Don't you just hate when you can't shake that pesky amnesia? If I was someone who joked with hashtags, I’d now sarcastically write #relatableproblems, but I hate people who speak or write that way. I’ve already alluded to the fact that one of Theresa’s kids might not be fully evolved from her monkey ancestors; I draw the moral line at using hashtags.
This season and its new cast seems promising, in the rubbernecking way that experiencing this show can possibly be promising. There’s a set of twins who wear that dark lip liner with a lighter shade of lipstick, a look I haven’t seen since the long-ago days I that I frequented the mall. There’s a bunch of new misogynistic husbands the women bow down to, usually in the kitchen or in the bedroom. There are children who will probably be releasing mug shots before graduation photos, though some of them seem to have their heads on straight, which is nice to see. There are new opening taglines like Dina’s which states, “I’m back to bring the Zen. Namaste, bitches,” and really, give that bitch credit for coming up with a snappy line that I won’t forget for at least a month or two. Oh, and allegedly one of the women’s husbands slept with his mother-in-law several times, so there’s that to look forward to once the court case Theresa’s family is embroiled in winds down.
I don’t wish family strife on anyone, reality television participant or not, but it’s kind of hard to feel much empathy for Theresa and her dick husband when I very much remember watching them count out thousands of dollars in cash in stores in the first season, flaunting their questionably-earned wealth in front of cameras they allowed to record the action. It seems as though they are now paying for at least one of those Deadly Sins they committed, though it’s a toss-up as to whether or not the main sin was gluttony, greed, or sloth. What I do know is that I’m back and I’m kind of looking forward to witnessing their slide into legal purgatory and perhaps hell, and as long as I’m in it now, I can only hope they’ll show it all happening in slow motion.